Summer is here! But rather than cranking the AC, a great way to cool off and chill out is to head straight to a water park. With heart-racing rides for the thrill-seekers, calm pools for the kiddies, and entertainment, it’s a day the whole family can enjoy. So Yahoo Travel waded through all the water parks and found the best of the bunch — those with the fastest rides, the tallest water slides, the highest-ranked roller coasters, the most kid-friendly, and even one that mimics a tropical island retreat. Here are the top parks making a splash this summer.
Water Country USA, Williamsburg, Va.
It’s not called Water Country for nothing! This park — the largest in all of Virginia — is considered the cleanest and best maintained in the country, plus it’s known for its kid-friendly rides like H20 UFO and Kritter Korral. But there’s plenty for grown-up kids, too: Colossal Curl, the nation’s first-ever ride that combines a funnel slide with a wave raft ride, was added at the end of last summer and was an instant hit. (Riders travel on a raft through a 24-foot funnel and then fly into 40-foot waves.) Aquazoid, another raft ride, takes riders into an enclosed dark tunnel, plummeting them 850 feet and soaking them in unseen waterfalls. But it’s Vanish Point, a slide ride that starts in a 75-foot-high tower, that is a serious adrenaline rush. After stepping into the skybox, guests drop down as the floor drops out sliding 300 down at incredible speeds. Definitely worth the trip and is conveniently located near Busch Gardens. Single day tickets cost $44 (9 and younger) and $51 (10 and older).
Dollywood Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Behold Fire Tower at Dollywood Splash Country (Photo: Dollywood)
Adjacent to the theme park is the water park, which is based on Dolly Parton’s childhood swimming in the rivers of the Great Smoky Mountains, so many of the rides mimic real-life water experiences. Among the draws are Big Bear Plunge, a white water rafting slide that simulates a real river expedition and Fire Towel Falls, steep twin slides where brave guests free-fall down 70 feet. The latest addition, RiverRush, is the first and only water coaster in all of Tennessee. Set four feet it the air, it whips riders through the tree lines taking hairpin turns through dark tunnels and dark tunnels. One day pass is $47 (adults) and $42 (children).
Water World, Denver, CO
Mile High Flyer (Photo: Water World)
This water park is one of the largest in the U.S. with more than 49 different attractions on 64 acres. The star attraction is the Mile High Flyer, a fast-flying water coaster. But The Storm is also a nail biter: The raft ride zooms thrill seekers through a dark tube that recreates a storm with loud thunder, flashes of lightening and rain. The park also has an exhausting selection of wave pool, tube slides, and splash-down rides for the entire family. Day tickets run $39 (adults) and $33 (children).
Wet ‘N’ Wild, Oahu, HI
A wave pool at Wet ‘N’ Wild (Photo: Wet ‘N’ Wild)
With some of the best beaches in its backyard, this 29-acre water park has to be pretty darn impressive to draw crowds away from the ocean. And it does! Among the bar-raising attractions are the 400,000-gallon Hawaiian Water Wave Pool and the Da’Flowrider, a surfing-simulator. But what makes the park even more enjoyable is the lush tropical landscape and natural cliffs making it a unique island experience. Day passes are $48 (adult) and $38 (children and seniors).
Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells, WI
Scorpian’s Tail (Photo: Noah’s Ark)
The largest water park in the U.S. features some of the most exciting and varied water rides around, including 51 slides, two wave pools, and a surfing simulator called Surfing Safari. But it’s really known for it’s extreme rides, like Scorpion’s Tail, a near vertical slide that drops into an inclined loop, and the Black Anaconda, a water coaster, which zooms riders through a dizzying course at speeds up to 30 miles and hour. Daily tickets are $33 (adults) and $29 (for seniors and children).
Schlitterbahn Waterpark, Kansas City, KS
Home to Verruckt, the tallest water slide in the world, it plummets four riders on a raft down 15 stories, reaching speeds up to 70 miles per hour. The ride has gotten so popular, visitors who want to ride must make a reservation at the beginning of the day. If that bad boy is too scary for you, Torrent Beach, the world’s largest tidal wave river, is chill and fun for the whole family. But the coolest part of the park is its Transportainment river system that makes it possible for guests to travel from one end of the park to the other without leaving the water. Day passes will run you $43 (adults) and $33 (seniors and kiddies).
Aquatica, Orlando, Fla.
SeaWorld’s Aquatica is one of the top-three most popular water parks in the U.S. A favorite rid among visitors is Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. According to the park, it is the tallest, steepest, and only multi-drop tower slide in Orlando. (Florida is the state with second hight number of amusement parks.) But what makes this park really unique is its animal-interaction rides like Dolphin plunge. Visitor slide underwater through enclosed tubes along side swimming dolphins. Day passes are $47 per person.
Six Flags White Water, Atlanta, GA
Dive Bomber (Photo: Six Flags)
If dropping out a trap door and experiencing a zero gravity, 10-story fall appeals to the adrenaline junkie in you — then head straight for this water park. In addition to the aforementioned Dive Bomber, there is a mix of tube rides, raft rides, rapids, slides, and lagoons for everyone in the family. Bonus: Six Flags has cabanas where visitors can to chill out and soak up the sun. Tickets are $42 (adults) and $37 (for children under 48-inches tall).
Splashin’ Safari Water Park - Santa Claus, Ind.
Mammoth (Photo Splashin’ Safari)
Part of Holiday World Theme Park — home of the $22 million Thunderbird roller coaster – Splashin’ Safari Water Park features two of the largest high tech water coasters in the world, the Mammoth and the Wildebeest. (They are also ranked the best in the country.) For those who might be a little too tiny or timid for these bad boys, there are also calmer adventures to be had including Bahari Wave Pool, Hyena Falls and Monsoon Lagoon. Tickets are $45 (adults) and $35 (children) but are offered at discounted rates online or at 3 p.m. at the gate.
Raging Waters, San Dimas, Calif.
Raging Waters (Photo: Raging Waters)
California has the most amusement parks of any state, and this is its biggest water park. Located on 50 acres, it has over 36 water slides and attractions. Among the most impressive heart-racers is The Bermuda Triangle — one of the fastest water slides in the U.S. at about 50 miles per hour. It has three different courses that whiz riders around at breakneck speed. Another popular ride is The Dark Hole, a water slide that whisks park guests through a dark, watery maze. General admission is $42 per person.